Beauty Boxes Unite! And then Face-off: A look at BirchBox, Walmart, and Target


Beauty is not my area of expertise, deals are! So, I’m not going to tell you how awesome/crappy the products are, but I am going to tell you which beauty box has the best value, what I like them for, and which I would reorder. PLUS, I’ve included a little surprise at the end…

First, I love free/sample products. Just like you wouldn’t buy a new perfume without testing it first, I’m not likely to try a new beauty product without sampling it first. However, I’m also not likely to buy 5 mascaras and see which one I prefer. Enter samples! I’ve found my favorite eye liner through a 100 point perk at Sephora, my favorite lipstick brand through a sample, and my favorite eye shadow from a Sephora value set (see below). Going back to mascara, I don’t have a preference so I actually look for free samples of it, and the ease of getting them means I haven’t paid for it in years.

Screen Shot 2016-01-03 at 11.55.40 AM (Sephora at JCPenney has the BEST value sets – especially around Christmas. This value set includes a full-sized Nars blush which costs $30 alone)

Therefore, it took me a while to get on board with paying for free samples. Target got me first because the box was $7, they showed you what was inside (and I wanted to try the Fekkai Sunshine Shield spray), and there was free shipping. Next, I picked up Walmart, even though, let’s be real Walmart is not a beauty leader, but they are Every Day Low Price (EDLP) leader, so I figured it would be a good deal.  Last, I broke down and tried Birchbox, the luxury leader. Let’s see how they compare:

1. Ease of finding: Birchbox

Birchbox is easy to find and they auto enroll you so there is no guesswork on when it’s coming or how much you will pay. Target and Walmart were harder to find. I found both on, but Walmart gets second place because you can sign up for a quarterly subscription and Target’s frequency is unclear and if you do find it on their site it can be sold out (my luck when I tried to sign up for their second box).

2. Frequency: Walmart

Walmart is a quarterly subscription, Birchbox is monthly, and Target is… who the heck knows 🙁 and if you find it, good luck at getting it. Even though Birchbox is predictable I was a bit surprised when I ordered on September 24th, was told I was getting the October box, only to have the September box arrive on October 3rd. Then I cancelled my subscription on October 6th and afterwards was charged for the October box, which arrived a few days later. Therefore, Birchbox’s shady policies award them a third place.

3. Price: Tie (due to a $2 spread)

Target: $7 and free shipping

Walmart: free and $5 shipping

Birchbox: $5 with a code; normally $10

4. Presentation winner: Birchbox


Birchbox’s box is so beautiful! I also liked that inside it said it was designed by Birchbox subscribers.20160103_104320

I suspect that Walmart and Target copied the presentation by including tissue paper and welcome cards in their boxes. I’ll give Target second place and Walmart third place by default – their box is pretty ugly.

5. Contents winner: ??? I’ll just review in alphabetical order20160103_105134

Birchbox Pro: I LOVED that you created a beauty profile when you signed up – you share your coloring, beauty and styling habits, and favorite types of products. I also really like the surprise aspect of this box – it’s something to look forward to. Also, the lipstick is a beautiful shade and I’m excited to try a new moisturizer.

Birchbox Con: They didn’t use my profile. I said I don’t blow dry my hair and they gave me a hair mist to use *before blowdrying* and I said to limit perfume samples to max 4 a year (because I don’t want perfume samples), and they gave me a horrid smelling perfume in my first box. I would suggest not doing that for customer retention!

Target Pro: Only box that included 2 full sized products. I also wanted to try the sun protection for your hair, since I run outside a lot. Also got my mascara supply 😉

Target Con: Don’t want the Clairol Hair Food… but that’s just personal preference. Also,

Walmart Pro: There is a whopping 10 brands and 12 products to try. Also, all samples were very practical. Who can’t use a disposable razor or a travel deodorant?

Walmart Con: The products are not that exciting. I can get coupons on every single one of these products (Nivea coupons may be harder to find), so it’s not like I couldn’t or wouldn’t discover these brands on the regular.

6. Value winner: Walmart20160103_105340

Not only are there a crap ton of things to try, you get coupons on most products in case you want to repurchase. Target and Birchbox tie on value because both offer deals to try more products; Target included a 15% coupon on future beauty purchases and Birchbox sends constant emails with different deals.

Overall winner: Walmart

Walmart wills by default!!!! Both Walmart and Target are in the value segment of the beauty market and Walmart’s box has better price, value, and variety. Plus you can get it again if you want to.

Birchbox is by far the most luxurious, but I never want perfume and I don’t blow dry my hair…. so half of these things were already useless. Also, their ordering issues (see above) made me not want to continue with them.

As mentioned before here is the surprise!!

Since Walmart won and it’s not exactly in the same category as Birchbox, I’d like to give a shoutout to the original sample provider…. SEPHORA!!

Sephora gives you 3 free samples with every purchase and then has some great “weekly specials.” I used my annual $15 off $50 coupon to buy my sister a Christmas gift and got all of this below. The “Cyber Weekend Mystery Sample Bag Cyber” had the full sized mask (which I’m a huge fan of after living in Japan where I discovered these), a great travel face wash, a mini eyeliner, and some other random things.  The perfume even smelled good!  All of this was $0.00 making Sephora the winner of the luxury category!20160103_141806

Also, if you want real beauty reviews, check out my friend Brianna’s blog:

Disclaimer: Tax is never included in these reviews b/c it would distort the price before and after the discount(s). I paid with this with my own money because I am an independent chick.